I admit this posting is something of a meme, as it bears the same title as my old friend Patrick’s Facebook… I used to share his sentiments about this strange invention that made a very big fortune for the person who came up with the idea and had the technical expertise for it. For some people, it can be quite addictive. I am assuming that most of my readers have some experience with Facebook as regular or occasional users.
Addiction to Facebook would be of the psychological variety like compulsive gambling. For some people, it can be a means of trying to remake your life, live in the past, rehash things that have to be left in the past. Facebook can lull us into a false sense of security – but we never know who is reading what we say, whether on Facebook or on a blog.
It can be very tiresome when you receive e-mails about being tagged, poked and I don’t know what else. I get hundreds of requests for “friendship”, among which there are a few coming from spammers and scammers. It is all very bewildering. However, I found it useful to seek out people I knew years ago and lost touch with. A friendship (I mean a real one in real life) that has gone cold can take a lot of reviving. OK, that is the social side.
I find the group feature interesting, and I have set up one called Use of Sarum. I also occasionally post to Medieval Catholicism and Culture. For those who share my interest in sailing, there is Dinghy Cruising Association, which is highly active and entertaining. I find these groups more interesting than the old Yahoo Groups e-mail lists – more graphic and colourful, with all comments to postings available for all to read. This is a feature of Facebook that is positive.
When you open Facebook and have an account, you find a page showing the postings of all your “friends”. Some are extremely active and maintain a presence, like a cleric being on his virtual pastoral round. My Bishop likes a light-hearted approach and banter. As he explained to me, it keeps up the contacts with people he does know and minister to in real life. Another cleric whose postings featured in a posting I wrote a few days ago on this blog is concerned for humanitarian causes and the combat against indifference and the uncaring attitude of many people in the materialist west. In such a context, I found the video with the “box of dolls” and the grieving man holding his dead child presumably killed in Syria by Daesh. There are some who like to entertain us with extreme sports or feats of modern technology. It can go on for ever and we can end up spending too much time before switching to another site or doing something other than being in front of the computer.
Another option is to look at the top of the page and restrict ourselves to notifications of who has “liked” or commented on something we have posted or written. This also covers our activities on the groups feature, like my Sarum group and someone’s else’s Medieval Catholicism and Culture group. The latter has implemented a rule to prevent the group from being bogged down by contemporary Catholicism issues such as traditionalist vs. liberal or “true church” apologetics from the addicts to such issues.
Use of the internet, whether Facebook, blogs or fixed sites, takes critical out-of-the-box thinking and being oneself, not trying to be clever or setting out to impress. If we have something to contribute to discussion, then we have our opportunity. Other people might be critical or violently disagree. There are always our spooky troll friends out there somewhere with false names, invalid e-mail addresses and URL addresses that can’t be traced because they have special technology for that. If you fly in enemy territory, expect flak!
I have mixed feelings about Facebook, but I think I would lose out if I stopped using it completely within its limits as a “virtual pub” or place where special interests can be discussed. It can be quite stimulating, as it can, be frustrating and show the worst of sinful human nature. It has its place like the more serious blog and our quiet websites – equivalent to books on library shelves.
In the end, who is in charge, man or the machine? There are many negative aspects and we have to come to terms with them. The first thing to remember is that on the opening page, 99% of it is complete drivel. Trivia can be addictive, but it gets us nowhere in life. It is best to go on Facebook for a reason, the precise things that interest us, and never mind the rest. I was caught out the other day looking at trivia, where I found the “box of dolls” video.
Another thing to remember is that our “friends” are not friends, except the few we might know in real life. The internet is incapable of conveying emotions or body language. It makes us all “aspies” but socially and emotionally blinder than those with varying degrees on the autism spectrum. That is why people are so literalist on the internet – <sarcasm> great for discussing religion! </sarcasm>.
We do need to ask ourselves about what we like doing away from our computers. My main three are my priestly life, music and sailing. With a bit of effort, I do maintenance work on the house and what’s necessary in the garden. Then we have two young dogs to walk and work on their obedience training. That’s not too bad. Then of course, my work as a translator keeps me hooked to the computer.
Some people do well to give up Facebook completely. An alternative is to use it very selectively and as a tool. Are we self-critical enough? Good question. I don’t change my image very much, and stability is something as important as the mast-head on a blog. Facebook is a place to be more light-hearted and shallow than on a blog, but we do need to watch what we are saying for our own good. Don’t expose your intimate self!
I don’t send invitations, and I very rarely request a “friendship”. Many people have to wait a long time before being accepted by me, and many don’t make it because I cannot ascertain why they would want to “be my friend”. There are often no interests in common, and some profiles look suspicious, especially when they don’t use their real name. Too many friends make for a horribly long opening page with horrible videos and trivia.
Above all, know how the system is designed to work, and don’t let it manipulate you. Above all, have a real social life and enjoy doing things away from the computer.